Strikeforce: "Evolution" has stopped evolving. And so, too, has the perfect mixed martial arts record of sensational San Shou striker, Cung Le.
Scott Smith once again "pulled a rabbit out of his butt" to send Le packing for the Hollywood hills with a late third round knockout at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., tonight (Dec. 19). Le dominated the action for more than two rounds.
But, as usual, Smith only needed a small opening to leave his mark. And boy did he. Several, actually.
Le, who perhaps wasn't in top form after such a long layoff, tired as the fight entered the third and final round. He put a beating on Smith for more than 10 minutes, which more than likely had his gas tank near empty. He let his guard down for just a second in the final minutes of the fight and it was all "Hand of Steel" needed to give announcer Mauro Ranallo a coronary.
Two big hooks, a straight right hand and a few extra shots on the ground had the referee peeling Smith off a prone Le. It was another incredible finish from Smith and certainly a bitter defeat for Le. He had the fight won, but he just didn't have the ability to stay out of harms way in the final moments of what was otherwise a brilliant performance.
It's hard to say where Le, and the promotion, go from here. Le's mystique, and mug, took a real blow tonight. And Smith isn't the type of high-level fighter who can consistently win and draw big ratings.
Unless, of course, he somehow has more rabbits stashed up his shorts.
Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Josh Thomson also returned to action after a long layoff to rematch interim 155-pound stalwart, Gilbert Melendez, in the co featured fight of the night.
And what a fight it was ... one for the record books.
Melendez was able to roll to a clear-cut unanimous decision; however, Thomson was game throughout and left it all in the cage in an effort to takeout "El Nino." He was hurt, and dropped, several times, but still kept pressing the action ... especially later in the fight when it was obvious he was down on the judges scorecards.
"El Nino" kept his composure throughout, even in the crazy flurries that erupted throughout the 25-minute match, getting the best of "The Punk" more often than not to hang on for an important win.
He'll likely move on to defend the unified title against another contender, perhaps even Shinya Aoki if he decides to visit the states, but Strikeforce will always have the trilogy match between Melendez and Thomson up its sleeve to use whenever the time is right.
Hopefully, that time is sooner rather than later.
Everyone in the know was aware that Brazilian jiu-jitsu sensation Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza was an absolute beast on the ground. Tonight he educated all those who were not so in the know with a mind boggling display of submission grappling against the very experienced Matt Lindland.
"Jacare" was lightning fast, transitioning from submission to submission with unbelievable ease and grace. Lindland defended most of them well, including a very tight armbar, but just could not slow him down, succumbing to a slick arm triangle as the first round came to a close.
It's safe to say that Strikeforce has done a masterful job on upgrading its 185-pound class recently. And Jacare is at the head of it alongside other notables such as Jake Shields, Dan Henderson, Robbie Lawler, Melvin Manhoef, Le and Frank Shamrock, among others.
Will he fight them anytime soon? Probably not. That's because there is still some unfinished business with Jason "Mayhem" Miller," which is hopefully settled in early 2010.
"King" Mo Lawal was equally impressive in his debut for the promotion. He lacked the size and experience of his opponent, Mike Whitehead, but that didn't really matter.
Not at all.
Lawal, a very accomplished collegiate wrestler, looked comfortable and confident on his feet. He used his speed and athleticism to slip punches and drop several on Whitehead en route to an impressive first round knockout finish. He has a killer instinct, which is bad news for anyone one who he hurts.
He mentioned Gegard Mousasi as a possible next opponent after the win; however, one has to imagine that Strikeforce would like to get him a few more fights before going that route. Then again, maybe not. That would be one helluva a fight now and in the future.
That's it from us. Now we want to hear what you have to say ... share your thoughts and "Evolution"-related comments below.
If you missed any of the action you can check out the Strikeforce: "Evolution" play-by-play and live fight coverage here.